The longer this separation went on the more vulnerable I felt. Often I didn't want to talk when I went out because I was constantly having to repeat myself. This still happens quite often -- I'll start to speak and the first thing people notice is that I have an accent. Instead of listening to what I'm saying they are listening to the accent and so I have to repeat myself. It doesn't happen so often now because I speak English on a regular basis -- instead of American! In the early days I would try very hard to remember the right English word for things -- but sometimes, especially if I was tired, I would forget and order 'fries' instead of 'chips' or ask where the 'elevator' was instead of the 'lift'. The result? Blank stares!!! Now I am more apt to forget the right word when I visit the States and have to speak 'American'...
Then there were people that didn't mind letting me know that Americans were really inferior and/or to blame for all the world's ills and I was American so I was to blame... I can laugh about this stuff now -- but back then I took it all too much to heart. I will give you a few examples...
The Man and I were attending a Ladies Night at RAF Woodvale where he was a member of the Mess. We were seated next to a couple we didn't know. As dinner progress we chatted with this couple -- who were very reserved and it turned out this woman was working in education somehow. She asked me if I were Canadian or American (standard) and about where in America I'd come from. At some point I told her that my father was an English teacher.
"Oh," she said in her 'hoitiest' and 'toitiest' voice "I am surprised. "It never occurred to me that America would have English teachers!" At that point, I wrote her off!!!
On another occasion, I very close personal friend, had just been to see the film Dances with Wolves. She'd dropped by briefly -- I think our boys had been playing together. All I can remember is that I was standing at the front door and she was telling me all about this movie and how fantastic it was and how terrible the native Americans had been treated. And then she looked at me and said, "Don't you feel guilty for how badly the American Indian was treated? You should!" I felt so personally attacked! I hasten to add that we are still very good friends and I did not hold a grudge -- but at the time I was very shocked and hurt.
Then there was politics! I got lots of teasing about that and I hadn't even voted for the man!!!
From 1980 until 1984 the only member of my family I saw was my brother, who visited me a couple of times for a weekend on his way home from business trips to Germany. In September 1984 after 4 years apart, my sister and her husband came for a two-week much needed visit. It was not until May 1985 that I was able to make my first visit 'home'. I wept as we flew over Manhattan and then there I was at Newark Airport with two little boys in hand. For the first and only time in my life a customs officer, a woman, saw me with my two little ones and lots of luggage. She walked over and spoke to me and then very kindly signed my customs declaration, led/helped us in the right direction.
At long last the three of us went through the doors and there they were, Mom and Dad waving like mad! I was home and yet after five long years, in a strange land!
|Home for my 40th with all the family!|